Market Memories: Bob Kattenburg

May 17, 2013

One of the market’s earliest vendors, Bob Kattenburg of Critical Edge Knife Sharpening shares his memories.

After our seasonal Pleasant Hill Farmers Market closed at the end of October 1994, and I was lamenting open Saturdays with no market to go to, Stan Devoto of Devoto Gardens urged me to apply to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. The manager, Judy Blue, was initially lukewarm about the idea, but let me in on a provisional basis. I was to start in late November.

One memorable story I remember from early days took place in the original location in the median strip of the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building, probably in 1995. The market set up in what was normally a parking lot. There were signs posted saying there was no parking on Saturdays from 2 am to 4 pm. I think that Judy Blue had a towing service that would come and tow any remaining cars away. For some reason, on this particular day, there was a VW Bug left behind, sitting at the north end of the market area where, I think, Hayes Street Grill was supposed to set up.

Judy was standing there trying to figure out how to move the VW out of the way. As I recall, it took eight of us, lined up around the car, to lift it up high enough to carry it over the curb, drag it across the road that connected the two sides of the Embarcadero, and lift it, one more time, over into the next parking lot.

That was a long time ago. Many of the farmers and vendors are still the same today. Many others have come and gone. Over the past 18 years, I have developed many good friendships, not only among my fellow marketeers, but, just as significantly, also among my many customers, many of whom I see on a weekly basis. There are also the CUESA staff who help make market what it is. For me, Saturday morning would not be the same without them. They have my gratitude and admiration. It goes without saying that, from a business standpoint, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market has been a valuable addition to my revenue mix. Saturdays (and for a number of years, Tuesdays) have been a win-win-win proposition for me and The Critical Edge. It makes me feel good knowing there are lot of people in the Bay Area whose cooking experiences have been made easier and a lot more fun because they came to the market.

Now that The Critical Edge has also passed its 20th anniversary on May 1, 2013, I’m starting to cut back on my work schedule to make room for other activities that my wife and valued office manager, Jill McFadden, and I like to do together. (For many years, Jill was the person on the other side of the table, dealing with our customers and vendors. Once in a while Jill still comes to the market to help me for a few hours, and she never fails to get re-energized by the experience.)

In the last month, I’ve let go of my mobile commercial accounts. That’s been part of my exit strategy for many years. I’m keeping the farmers markets I’ve done for almost two decades. There are two other venues I will continue to do, for the same reasons. These four will be the last to go, because it’s going to be really hard to let go of those many friendships.

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